The history of the School’s elephant logo explained

By Margaret Wilson

Graduates of Manchester Dental School often ask what are the origins of their very distinctive elephant logo.

Over the years the logo has erroneously been attributed to Sir Samuel Turner, who provided the funding for the construction of the building, but played no part in the creation of the logo. What is true is that the logo was designed for the opening of the current Dental hospital / School building in 1940.

At the Annual General Meeting of the Governors of the Manchester Dental Hospital and School, held in Manchester on 22nd February 1938, it was announced that a suitable site for the new Manchester Dental Hospital had been chosen.

The architects that had been appointed to design the new Dental Hospital and School were a well-established local Manchester firm – Thomas Worthington & Sons.  The architect, Sir Hubert Worthington (1886-1963) began his professional training at the Manchester School of Architecture. He graduated with First Class Honours and worked for some time as assistant to Sir Edwin Lutyens in Rome. He was a Captain in the Manchester Regiment but was severely wounded in the Somme in 1916.

In 1923 Worthington was appointed Professor of Architecture at the Royal College of Art. He resigned in 1928 to return to the family practice of Thomas Worthington & Son which had been set up by his father. Early on in his career he designed the War Memorial and Armoury at his old school, Sedburgh, and the cotton textile section at the British Empire Exhibition of 1924.  Later he was commissioned to design several college and university buildings in Oxford. 

Sir Hubert Worthington was responsible for the design of the Turner Dental School and Hospital in Manchester and for additions to the Manchester Royal Infirmary, the Royal Eye Hospital and the University of Manchester.  He was also architect to the war damaged Manchester Cathedral and Westminster School. 

The new Manchester Dental Hospital and School was to be built on an island site at the corner of Lloyd Street and Bridge Street (now re-named Bridgeford Street). The site was adjacent to the old Medical School and at the other end of the street from the existing Oxford Road Dental Hospital and School (now the Manchester Museum). The houses occupying the site were compulsorily purchased and demolished. The new building was to form three sides of a square with staff car parking facilities in the central quadrangle.  The fourth side, facing the Medical School was to be constructed at a later date and was intended to house the Medical Library.

The erection of the new building began in August 1938 and continued through the war years, finally being occupied in May 1940.  In gratitude to Sir Samuel Turner, the major benefactor, the School was named the Turner Dental School. When the School opened it also had, for the first time, a logo – two elephants.

The elephant logo was positioned on the windows over the main entrance to the Hospital and a smaller version over the students’ entrance in the East wing.  Both windows were destroyed during the refurbishment of the main entrance and conversion of the student entrance to a service entrance, but fortunately copies of the logo were retained in the Dental Museum.

Although the building was designed by Sir Hubert Worthington, the design of the elephant logo can be attributed to his wife, Lady Worthington, who had trained as an artist at the Royal Academy. The story told was that Sir Hubert had become passionately fond of elephants following a visit to Africa. The logo was a tribute to her husband, the architect of the purpose-built dental school and hospital to acknowledge his interest in elephants and make the connection of tusks and teeth.

Lady Worthington designed the logo to include two elephants facing each other, each with a fine pair of ivory tusks. The outline of the elephants is very simplistic, yet the whole logo has a wonderful art- deco feeling with no extra or unnecessary lines or embellishment.

The logo continues to be used on alumni ties, badges etc and the elephant outline has also been incorporated into various internal glass door panels and brickwork ramps outside the hospital. It is usual practice for a University Dental Hospital and School to adopt the crest of the university. What is unusual, and probably unique to Manchester is that the Dental Hospital and School has its own logo.

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